Thursday, April 19, 2018

Applause! Applause! Review of The Billboard Players' production of Reginald Rose's Twelve Angry Men at The Community Church of East Williston by Dr. Philip Ernest Schoenberg

This review of The Billboard Players' production of Reginald Rose's Twelve Angry Men at The Community Church of East Williston was written by Dr. Philip Ernest Schoenberg and published in Volume X, Issue 8 (2018) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Twelve Angry Men
Written By Reginald Rose
Directed by Louis V. Fucilo
The Community Church of East Williston
45 East Williston Avenue
East Williston, New York 11596
Reviewed 4/14/18  

I recently saw an outstanding production of Twelve Angry Men at The Community Church of East Williston. Louis V. Fucilo, the director, and the producers, Mark Danielson and Bob & Charlene Eckhoff, chose a most able group of actors that truly personified men of the 1950s. The ensemble of players included Joseph Anfora, Jonathan Baker, Nathan Bischoff, Al Carbuto, John Carrozza, Robert Hertz, Andy Minet, Joseph Montano, Joe Pepe, John Rowe, Joseph Schweigert, Raymond A. Tallercio, and Michael Wolf. Virtually everyone wore a tie, which was customary in 1954. Fucilo, the director, brought out the best in each of the actors. It was easy to believe that each of the jurors were passionate citizens of the era, not button-down calm conformists. They each became real people with all the faults and imperfections of human beings, not godlings, who have to determine the fate of the accused. Reginald Rose has written a play that encapsulates the true spirit of New Yorkers living in the 1950s - an honest portrayal and not an idealized perspective borne of nostalgia. Twelve Angry Men is a true diamond in the rough.

I am reminded of Fiddler On The Roof, the movie directed by Norman Jewison. When he was asked why he picked Chaim Topol over Zero Mostel, he explained he wanted an ensemble production, not a star vehicle dominated by Zero Mostel. No names were used in this play to highlight one man's use of reason to built consensus towards a not guilty verdict. Reginald Rose wrote toward the end of the Golden Age of Television when live drama was coming to an end. He was able to produce a highly engaging, emotionally taut, high stakes drama: guilt or innocence for a man charged with murder. If found guilty, the accused would be executed. The deliberations held our interest with very few gimmicks with the one exception of Juror #8 producing a switch blade knife he purchased at a local store in the slum where the accused lived with his father. The prosecution had made the point that the knife used to kill the boy's father was somewhat unique. Juror #8 bought the exact same knife to show that someone else could easily have purchased a similar knife. This drama, written by Reginald Rose, has aged well and still holds up needing no tricks to remain interesting.

All the actors in this production perform well and make their characters come alive with energy and emotion. Each of the ensemble players performed their roles without overwhelming the other actors. Jonathan Baker as Juror #11 was very believable as a "New American" who believes that the American dream - even justice - applies to everyone. His European accent made him appear very authentic. Michael Wolf, Juror #10, played rough-at-the-edges garage owner who, depending on your mood, you might or might not want to sit next to. He expresses thoughts you usually keep hidden from yourself. 

Louis V. Fucilo's set design and decoration, aided by Mark Danielson and Bob Eckhoff, succeeded in transforming the stage into a courtroom, an intimate space where people could view the action and hear the performance from three sides. Lighting highlighted the jurors as they spoke and signified the passage of time. Unfortunately, given  that the jurors were seated around a Board Room table, depending on where you sat, the jurors were not always visible to the audience when it came their time to speak. Although total perfection was not attained, we still have here a most excellent production well worth seeing.

Thanks to fine writing and to the skilled acting, at no point does your interest drift off. You are drawn in and don't want to miss the action. This is a great play that is performed very authentically. This is American drama at its best. Don't miss it! Especially since refreshments are a most reasonable $1.00 for each item!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Applause! Applause! Review of The Billboard Players' production of Reginald Rose's Twelve Angry Men at The Community Church of East Williston by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of The Billboard Players' production of Reginald Rose's Twelve Angry Men at The Community Church of East Williston was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 8 (2018) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Twelve Angry Men
Written By Reginald Rose
Directed by Louis V. Fucilo
The Community Church of East Williston
45 East Williston Avenue
East Williston, New York 11596
Reviewed 4/14/18  

Twelve Angry Men was first made as a 1954 teleplay for the Studio One anthology television series and was aired live on CBS on September 20, 1954. While Reginald Rose re-wrote Twelve Angry Men for the stage in 1955, it didn't make it to Broadway until, in 2004, the Roundabout Theatre Company produced it at the American Airlines Theatre, where it ran for 328 performances. The play concerns the deliberations of a jury in a case involving a slum-residing, economically deprived, 16-year old boy with a prior criminal record accused of stabbing his father to death with a switchblade knife. While, at the beginning of jury deliberations, an initial vote reveals a nearly unanimous decision of guilty, Juror #8 votes not guilty simply because he would like the jury to discuss the evidence before condemning the boy to death, which we are told is the mandatory sentence in this case. Pleas for mercy will not be considered by the Judge.

The facts are quite interesting and the play reflects how a real jury might, in actuality, weigh the evidence presented to them. Some of the jurors enter the jury room with personal prejudices while others couldn't care less what the verdict is so long as they're not stuck there for too long. Some jurors complain about the heat while others are hungry. A number of them bring into the discussion facts not in evidence while others question whether the defendant's Court-appointed attorney did a good enough job cross-examining the witnesses. Many of the men demand that each juror justify why they are voting the way they do while others are willing to pre-judge the boy based on stereotypes they hold and that the criminal defendant may be predisposed to violence given his past criminal record, and the physical abuse he has suffered at the hands of his father. The main question is not whether the boy committed the murder but whether "reasonable doubt" exists based on the evidence. This makes for quite an enjoyable journey before the ultimate decision is made.

I went into this production concerned whether a 1950s teleplay would still ring true and resonate sixty-four years later and I am happy, but also sad, to report that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Many like to idealize the 1950s and argue that today, people are too easily "triggered" and "offended" by politically incorrect speech. Young kids are taking challenges to eat Tide pods and snort condoms. But those same people forget that in the 1950s, frat boys accepted challenges to swallow live goldfish. As for being easily offended, many of the jurors in this play take constant umbrage at what someone else says to them or some inference that is make, and a number of the jurors are even ready to engage in fisticuffs to confront the perceived insults. Upon reflection, very little seems to have changed over the years. Prejudice against foreigners, unpopular political opinions, and stereotypical views of slum-dwellers are all expressed and appear to be a constant in all societies and cultures.

The two most impressive actors in this production are Michael Wolf (Juror #10) and Raymond A. Taliercio (Juror #3). Mr. Wolf captivates the audience during his racist rants ("if you know what I mean") and Mr. Taliercio, whose character is estranged from his own son, is responsible for the most dramatic moments in the play. John Rowe also stands out as Juror #7, the guy who really couldn't care less which way the verdict goes so long as he can make the Yankees game on time. John Carrozza is strong as Juror #8 and reveals that even his character has the potential for violence in him. The remaining jurors each carried their own and all did a fine job. Those jurors were Joseph Anfora (Juror #1/Foreman), Andy Minet (Juror #2), Joe Pepe (Juror #4), Joseph Schweigert (Juror #5), Joseph Montano (Juror #6), Al Carbuto (Juror #9), Jonathan Baker (Juror #11), and Robert Hertz (Juror #12). Louis V. Fucilo, the Director, played the Judge, newcomer Nathan Bischoff, played the Guard. All should be very proud of their contributions to the success of this production.

You can catch remaining performances of Twelve Angry Men on Fridays, April 20 & 27th at 8:00 p.m.; Saturdays, April 21st & 28th at 8:00 p.m.; and on Sundays, April 22nd & 29th at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are $15.00 for adults and $12.00 for seniors. For reservations and more information, call 516-746-7356 or e-mail All concession items are $1.00 a piece. Extremely reasonable prices for soda and candy! They also served decaffeinated coffee. If you want coffee with caffeine, you will have to ask for it. I got my little cup of joy and had a wonderful time seeing this play. There is no better value you can get for your money! I highly recommend this production of Twelve Angry Men. It will give you much to talk about with your friends over dinner afterwards. 

Friday, April 6, 2018

Applause! Applause! Review of [title of show] at The Secret Theatre by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of [title of show] at The Secret Theatre was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 8 (2018) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

[title of show]
Book by Hunter Bell
Music & Lyrics by Jeff Bowen
Executive Producer: Richard Mazda
Director: Scott Guthrie
Stage Manager/Tech: Jessica Fornear
Lighting Design: Sophie Talmadge Silleck
Set Design: TzuChing Cheng
Production Manager: Justin Hsu
The Secret Theatre
44-02 23rd Street
Long Island City, New York 11101
Reviewed 3/29/18  

[title of show] is a one-act musical that chronicles the three-week creative process that went into the show's submission as a possible entry in the New York Musical Theatre Festival, and then continues to follow the trials and tribulations of the four actors as the show is produced off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre (2006) followed by their efforts to create buzz to get the show produced on Broadway (where it played at the Lyceum Theatre in 2008 for 13 previews and 102 regular performances). Determined to write an original musical  rather than adapt an existing play or movie, Jeff Bowen (music and lyrics) and Hunter Bell (book) soon realized that their conversations about what to write were more interesting that what they were actually writing. As a result, the musical documents the creation of the show itself ("a musical about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical"). Bell and Bowen expanded the script and included their experiences with friends Susan Blackwell and Heidi Blickenstaff, as well as Larry Pressgrove, their musical director. As a result, what you are watching is the actual dialogue spoken by the actors, which leads to one actor making the observation, "We have to get out of this scene because it feels a little long." After the script being submitted to the New York Musical Theatre Festival is in the envelope ready to be mailed, another actor observes, "If the finished script is in the envelope, should we still be talking." It's all very clever and entertaining.

This production of [title of show] at The Secret Theatre features a perfect cast of extremely talented actors with superior vocal abilities. Each and every one was a pleasure to watch perform. Jason Moody was amazingly quirky and authentic as Jeff, and Jeffrey Scott Stevens excelled as Hunter, the neurotic, ambitious playwright doggedly committed to seeing his play produced off and on Broadway. The audience witnesses his challenges as he considers bringing in an actress with more name recognition, changing the script to make it more family-friendly, and dealing with conflicts in the schedules of his original cast members. Chelsea Barker, who plays Heidi, is an absolute delight, and Jennifer Swiderski, as Susan, couldn't be better. They both mastered the unique personalities reflected in their respective characters, and together with the remainder of the cast, created magic on the stage that continuously impressed those lucky enough to be in the audience. Christopher Lengerich has a few lines as Larry, the Musical Director, but still makes an important contribution to the success of this production. Early on, Larry didn't speak but Jeff assured him, "We worked it out with the union - you can talk."

The dialogue is fresh and realistic. The relationships depicted and their conversations and conflicts are what you might observe if you were given the opportunity to see how friends interacted when they were not performing for public consumption. Discussions included whether audiences would like to see Paris Hilton play Mame and whether Wonder Woman should run for President. Two of the friends text each other possible Drag Queen names (e.g. Mini Van Rental, Lady Foot Locker). Hunter is interested in a guy wearing a red shirt who Jeff says is straight. Hunter's response, "so is spaghetti until it gets hot and wet." There are the usual challenges about working a steady job to pay the rent, and the disappointment when the success of the show doesn't change their lives in the way some had hoped it would. We see their struggles to promote the show using a video blog and performing a few numbers at the Pride Festival and the Actors Fund Black Tie Gala. At one point, in desperation, Hunter says, "Take your shirts off so we can sell some fucking tickets!" The show features no stars, four chairs, and no costume changes, yet it still was, and is, a smashing success. Larry, the Musical Director, accompanies the actors as they sing some extraordinary, memorable musical numbers, including "Untitled Opening Number," "Two Nobodies In New York," "An Original Musical," "Monkeys and Paybills," "Part Of It All," "I'm Playing Me," "What Kind Of Girl Is She," "Die, Vampire, Die!," "Secondary Characters," "A Way Back To Then," and "Nine People's Favorite Thing." There are also occasional homages paid to other musicals such as Rent and Into The Woods.

The only minor negatives are that some of the references, such as to the actress Mary Stout being injured by a runaway hot dog cart careening down West 46th Street, are quite dated and will be missed by most audience members. An explanation of the references provided in the program would have been helpful. In addition, the continuity of scenes in the second half of the musical reflected by the "fast-forward" Montages Parts 1-3 were out of sync with the slower real life timing of the rest of the show. However, these minor criticisms have more to do with the play itself than this production, which is the very best it could have been. We learn about vampires (such as The Vampire of Despair) that can come between you and your creative self. We also learn there may be a glow in the dark poster of Aspects Of Love existent somewhere in the world. On the other hand, we never learn whether Jeff ever got a Photo Shoot in a "Homo Magazine." They say "a Drag Queen (who needs her protein just like everyone else) is fabulous at night - but in the daytime - not so much." I can assure you this production of [title of show] is fabulous no matter what time of day you see it.

I give this show my highest recommendation and urge you to catch it during its current run at The Secret Theatre, where it plays through April 14, 2018. Tickets are $18.00 if purchased in advance and $20.00 at the door. For reservations and more information, you can call 718-392-0722 or visit 

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Applause! Applause! Review of Neil Simon's Plaza Suite at The Gallery Players by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Neil Simon's Plaza Suite at The Gallery Players was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 8 (2018) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Plaza Suite
Written by Neil Simon
Directed by Alexander Harrington
Scenic Design by Robert Sebes
Costume Design by Jerry Mittelhauser
Lighting Design by Heather Crocker
The Gallery Players
199 14th Street
Park Slope, New York 11215
Reviewed 3/17/18

Plaza Suite opened on Broadway at the Plymouth Theatre on February 14, 1968, and closed on October 3, 1970, after 1,097 performances and two previews. Mike Nichols won the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play. The three stories told all involve different characters, performed by some of the same actors, who are staying in Suite 719 of New York City's Plaza Hotel. In Visitor From Mamaroneck, we are introduced to Sam Nash (Robert McEvily) and Karen Nash (Alyssa Simon), a not-so-happily married couple. Karen suspects Sam is having an affair with Jean McCormack (Taylor Graves), his Secretary. Karen has rented the suite as a last-ditch effort to save their marriage. Jim deProphetis was hilarious as the bellhop. In Visitor From Hollywood, Jesse Kiplinger (Robert McEvily), a successful Hollywood producer who lives in Humphrey Bogart's old home in Beverly Hills, has invited the now-married Muriel Tate (Taylor Graves), his old High School girlfriend from Tenafly, New Jersey, to visit him in his hotel room. He has seduction on his mind while Muriel is doing her best to say and do what would be proper in those compromising circumstances. Mitch Tebo played the waiter in both stories. In Visitor From Forest Hills, the most hilarious of the three, Roy Hubley (Mitch Tebo) and his wife Norma Hubley (Alyssa Simon) find that their daughter, Mimsey (Taylor Graves) has locked herself in the bathroom minutes before she is set to marry Borden Eisler (Jim deProphetis). It appears nothing will get her out of the locked bathroom until her boyfriend Borden is called to the suite and mentions the magic words that resolve the crisis. No, not "I love you." 

Visitor From Mamaroneck reminds us how people, over time, can get on each other's nerves. Cute little idiosyncrasies and adorable habits can become intolerable points of torture whether we are talking about close friends or married couples. In Karen's case, she is cheap ("I don't usually give a dollar tip.); talks to strangers, like the waiter, about personal details regarding her family; annoys her husband by singing loudly in the background when he is on a business call; orders champagne and hors d'oeuvres when she knows her husband is on a 900-calorie-a-day diet; urges him to abandon his work to take her to a porn movie; deliberately doesn't pack his pajamas knowing he can't sleep without them; and constantly gets dates and facts wrong such as the date on which they were married, her age, and even the correct suite they stayed in on their honeymoon. Their marriage hasn't been a happy one for many years and Sam has become increasingly distant even to the point of being nasty. He even blows up at Karen's relatively calm reaction to his responses to her accusations. The funniest line in this otherwise serious story is when Karen surmises his affair may have started after he turned 50 years old, and suggests that if his secretary wasn't readily available, he might have even had an affair with the elevator operator in his office building. Sam's response, "It couldn't have been the elevator operator. He's 52 and I don't go for older men."

Visitor From Hollywood reminds us that in the old days, a single or married woman, should not go to the hotel suite of another man, especially an old boyfriend unless she has sex on her mind. In this story, Jesse Kiplinger (Robert McEvily) has invited Muriel Tate (Taylor Graves), his old High School girlfriend, to meet him while he is in New York. Muriel has closely followed Jesse's career and fantasizes what her life would have been like had she not married Larry. Before the #MeToo movement, it was a man's job to try to seduce and sleep with as many women as he could, and it was a woman's job to avoid comprising situations and circumstances. In addition, many times "No" did not really mean "No" since women were expected not to give in too easily. In this case, Muriel says all the right things, such as "I can only stay a few minutes" and " I really have to go. I am parked in a one-hour zone." Yet she finally accepts two Vodka Stingers and rejects going down to the bar to drink them. Despite her objection, Jesse kisses Muriel on the neck and then says, "If you don't object too strenuously, I'm going to kiss you again." Her response starts to change and eventually she says "I have plenty of time." and "Don't bite my neck. It will leave marks." Jesse eventually figures out Muriel gets sexually turned on when he mentions the names of celebrities he has met. He then uses that bat to hit a home run. So much for feigned resistance.

Visitor From Forest Hills was my favorite of the three. The reactions of the two parents, Roy Hubley (Mitch Tebo) and Norma Hubley (Alyssa Simon) as they try to get their daughter Mimsey (Taylor Graves) out of the locked bathroom are priceless. It involves pigeons, a gargoyle, a torn stocking, a ripped jacket, a broken diamond ring, a suspected broken arm, thunder, rain, and a possible lawsuit. With all the havoc Mimsy has created, you reach a point when you wish she'd just "cool it.' 

This production of Neil Simon's Plaza Suite is a must-see. The material holds up well and the acting is amazing. The entire ensemble cast is top-notch. You will have no complaints. I hesitate to point anyone out because I don't want to diminish the stellar, professional performances of the rest of the cast, but I do feel that Mitch Tebo as Roy Hubley in Visitor From Forest Hills was so exceptional that he deserves special mention. In my opinion, he could use a video of his performance in this show as a tape he can submit for his next Broadway audition. The show is extremely entertaining. I highly recommend you see this old gem while you can. Plaza Suite runs at The Gallery Players through Sunday, March 25, 2018. Tickets are $25.00 for Adults and $20.00 for Children 12 and under and Senior Citizens. For reservations, call 212-352-3101 or visit 

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Applause! Applause! Review of Theatre By The Bay's production of Beau Jest at the Bay Terrace Garden Jewish Center by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Theatre By The Bay's production of Beau Jest at the Bay Terrace Garden Jewish Center was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 8 (2018) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Beau Jest
Book by James Sherman
Directed by Patrice Valenti
Set Design by John Baratta & Lila Edelkind
Artistic Director: Cathy Chimenti
Producers: Eli Koenig, Barbara Koenig & Martha Stein
Theatre By The Bay
Bay Terrace Garden Jewish Center
13-00 209th Street
Bayside, New York 11360
Reviewed 3/10/18

The underlying French phrase "beau geste" is defined by as "a fine or noble gesture, often futile or only for effect." In Beau Jest, a comedy written by James Sherman, Sarah Goldman (Nili Resnick) hires Bob Schroeder (Stephen Kalogeras), a male escort from the Heaven Sent Escort Agency, to play Dr. David Steinberg, a Jewish boyfriend she made up to please her parents, Abe Goldman (Robert Budnick) and Miriam Goldman (Amy Goldman), who have been on her back to date "a nice Jewish boy." Sarah hires Bob to attend her father's birthday party in her apartment only to discover upon his arrival that Bob is not even Jewish. Bob qualified to be an escort because he spoke "good English" and owned a suit. This "jack of all trades" was also a bartender, a massage therapist, and luckily for Sarah, a part-time actor who is convinced he can play a believable Jewish doctor (i.e. a surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital) and complete the assignment. Cast aside in all this is Chris Cringle (Kyle T. Cheng), an advertising account executive at Leo Burnett, who Sarah has been secretly dating for six months. Sarah told her parents she broke up with Chris after they objected to his being Christian, and in this production, also Asian. Chris, of course, is not pleased Sarah feels uncomfortable introducing him as her current boyfriend but is also especially concerned after she doesn't tell him she loves him in the presence of Bob. Also in the mix is Joel Goldman (Robert Gold), Sarah's divorced brother, who is a therapist. 

Beau Jest first premiered on November 16, 1989 at the Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago. The play is set in Chicago with references to the now defunct Marshall Field's department store, Kaufman's Bagel & Delicatessen (in Skokie), Second City (where Bob took acting lessons), and to the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse. The action takes place in Sarah's one-bedroom apartment in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago, where parking is a nightmare. Sarah is a kindergarten teacher who has no idea what her end-game is. She re-hires Bob to attend the second night of Passover Seder, but he is becoming increasingly uncomfortable about deceiving Sarah's parents. Complicating matters further, Bob and Sarah are beginning to develop feelings for one another, setting up a classic love triangle, which pays off in the expected, confrontation near the end of the second act as the boyfriends try to out-do one another by expressing their willingness to convert and take other steps that will prove the intensity and sincerity of their love.  The only thing not produced was a ruler, which was unnecessary since Sarah already slept with both men multiple times. In the end, the final decision has to be made by Sarah, who realizes she must live her life as she sees fit and not to please, or avoid displeasing, her parents. The play reflects universal themes regarding relationships between parents and their children. 

Clues that Dr. David Steinberg (Bob) is not a surgeon and not Jewish are everywhere but no one seems to pick up on them. When Sarah's mother observes he doesn't look Jewish and asks if he is Sephardic, Bob responds, "No. Jewish." When asked by Sarah's father where "salmonella" comes from, Bob responds "it is caused by a very special bacteria that gets into the salmon." Sarah is very well aware of the fact that she hired Bob and knows what he does for a living. She asks Bob to help her set the dinner table and then after the family leaves, she invites Bob to give her a neck massage by telling him how "tense" she is and how when she tried out for the swimming team, "they used me as a diving board." The point of the play is to suggest that "the only person preventing you from living your own life is you!" Joel Goldman says that many of his clients "blame all their problems on their parents" and his advice to them is "Get Over It." In the end, Sarah tries to improve her relationship with her parents, and her mother eventually tells her, "Whatever you want to do, you do!" even if that means microwaving dishes instead of putting them in the oven.

The four main leads in this production of Beau Jest are all amazingly talented actors. I particularly enjoyed the performance of Stephen Kalogeras, who played Bob Schroeder/Dr. David Steinberg. Nili Resnick was very believable as the immature Sarah, making up stories as she goes along without regard for the consequences of her lies or who she hurts. Robert Budnick and Amy Goldman exhibited great rapport as Mr. & Mrs. Goldman often arguing like an old married couple. Robert Gold wasn't bad portraying Joel Goldman, Sarah's brother, but it wasn't clear from his facial expressions when he started to doubt whether Bob was really a doctor or even Jewish. The only sub-par performance in this production was that of Kyle T. Cheng, who played Chris Cringle. While I understand his character was supposed to be a more reserved, less exciting, account executive, I felt his acting did not convincingly portray his feelings for Sarah. Sometimes non-traditional casting works and can provide a whole new perspective on a role. In this case, it didn't work and detracted from my enjoyment of an otherwise delightful and engaging show. 

I strongly recommend you make every effort to catch Beau Jest during its final weekend at Theatre By The Bay. Performances are on Saturday, March 17th at 8:30 p.m., and Sunday, March 18th at 3:00 p.m. Tickets are available for $22.00 for adults, and $20.00 for seniors ages 62 and over, and children ages 12 and under. For more information, or to purchase your seats, call 718-428-6363, or visit 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Applause! Applause! Review of Theatre Out Of Bounds' production of The Flick at Studio Theatre Long Island by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Theatre Out Of Bounds' production of The Flick at Studio Theatre Long Island was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 8 (2018) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

The Flick 
Written by Annie Baker
Directed by Scott Johnston
Stage Manager: Natalie Dzienius
Technical Director: Kevin Bertschi
Studio Theatre Long Island
141 South Wellwood Avenue
Lindenhurst, New York 11757
Reviewed 2/10/18

The Flick debuted Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons on March 12. 2013 closing on April 7, 2013. After it won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, it was remounted at the Barrow Street Theatre and played there from May 18, 2015, to its closing on January 10, 2016. The Pulitzer Prize committee stated the play is a "thoughtful drama with well-crafted characters." It is set in a run-down movie palace called The Flick and features three movie ushers, Avery, Sam, and Rose (who also runs the film projector), who do the tedious work necessary to keep the theatre running. Sam and Rose are long-time employees while Avery is just passing through. Annie Baker was also awarded the 2013 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize and the 2013 Obie Award for Playwriting for this unusual offering that gives the audience a glimpse into the lives, morality, and loyalties of individuals who they might not ordinarily encounter. In this Theatre Out Of Bounds production of The Flick, the audience is seated on the stage facing the empty seats where all the action of the play takes place. Theatre Out Of Bounds is dedicated to the craft and creation of quality theatrical productions with a focus on edgy, thought-provoking, and relevant conversations.

Sam, who is 35 years old, has worked at The Flick for many years and lives with his parents. He is secretly in love with Rose, who runs the projector and resents the fact she was promoted over him even though he worked there longer. Because Rose has never shown an interest in him, Sam tells Avery, the new employee he is training, that Rose is a lesbian (Not unlike a woman calling a man gay if he rejects her sexual advances). Avery is taking a semester off from Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts where he is getting "a free ride" due to his father being a professor there. Rose, on the other hand, has $20,000.00 in student loans. Avery is a shy, lying, depressed young man who would rather watch movies than engage in social interactions. His mother moved to Atlanta a year and a half ago after having reconnected with an old lover from High School on Facebook. He subsequently tried to commit suicide by swallowing a lot of pins and speaks to his therapist regularly. He has serious trust issues and comes across as a bit naive. When Avery confronts Rose about her being a lesbian, she denies it but confesses she's "been with girls a couple of times" but isn't gay. Rose shows an interest in Avery, which makes Sam jealous, and even teaches him how to use the projector, which is something Sam has wanted for a long time. The three workers make $8.25 an hour. Sam and Rose are taking 10% of the ticket stubs and re-selling them distributing the extra proceeds as "Dinner Money." Avery initially refuses to go along with the embezzlement but eventually agrees.

Theatre Out of Bounds promises the work they produce will be thought-provoking and will involve relevant conversations. That is certainly the case with The Flick. Some of the action in this play takes on new meaning given the current #MeToo movement. Rose, an older woman, tries to seduce Avery by engaging in sexually aggressive and inappropriate behavior. Avery rejects her advances and she responds to his rejection saying, "I feel like a fucking idiot now," which prompts him to apologize to her. Not finished with her predatory behavior, she slides up to him while they are watching a movie together and begins giving him "a hand job." Avery is disturbed and totally traumatized by this experience. She recognizes his reaction, stops, and apologizes saying, "I just went for it and you didn't give me the vibe." Given Avery's negative reaction, Rose actually gets angry at her victim saying, "I feel like I molested you or something." Good observation! I joked to those around me in the audience that Rose would not be coming back because she had been arrested for sexual assault and will be spending the next five years in prison. Avery blames himself and apologizes to Rose saying, "I felt I'd just be rather watching a movie." Rose then reveals how "fucked up" she is and how after four months in any relationship, she turns into a dead fish and then fakes it until they break up. Not exactly relevant to her molesting Avery without his consent but I guess she was trying to identify with him by confessing that she has problems too. Avery proceeds to lie to Sam regarding what took place but their friendship is severely damaged as a result of Avery being promoted to Assistant Projectionist and because he shared with Rose the fact that Sam had a retarded brother who was marrying someone similarly situated. Resentful of the lavish ceremony his parents provided for his brother and disappointed with the progress of his own life, Sam says, "The only really happy people here are retards. All the rest are just miserable fucks." 

The Flick movie theatre is sold and becomes The Venue. It goes fully digital and the old staff is kept on but the new owner discovers the embezzlement and, because of a letter in the strongbox, believes Avery is responsible. He asks Rose and Sam to explain the situation and how it was "a tradition" that the workers were doing this but they refused, hanging him out to dry.  Avery is depressed and reflects on the fact that "the truth is you can't trust anybody" and "you shouldn't expect anything or for things to turn out well in the end." He reflects on the fact that the world has disappointed him and that everyone is acting as if they were in a sitcom." Woken up a bit more as a result of these experiences, Avery intends to return to school. Sam and Rose, on the other hand, eventually hook up, and life goes on.

The Flick features an extraordinarily talented cast. Joe Rubino shines as Sam, who may have a hidden desire to be a chef, but finds himself stuck in this low-paying job. He does a fine job portraying a man trapped by his circumstances but trying to find a little happiness where and when he can. Rosbel Franklin succeeds in making Avery a sympathetic character even though he can lie, be untrustworthy, and be non-reciprocal with friends just like everyone else. He describes himself as shitphobic because "other people's shit makes me feel like I want to puke." Callan McDermott brings Rose to life in all her erratic, frazzled, confused daily existence. She made Rose into a convincing sexual predator who may have reasons for her behavior even though those reasons don't excuse her conduct. Finally, John Dzienius makes a stellar appearance as Skylar, the new employee who replaces Avery. He has a strong stage presence and I very much enjoyed his performance. His character's desire to "kiss" the projector appeared to open a new chapter in the continuing soap opera of not only the lives of the workers at The Venue but also of our own lives, with new scenes being written every day! 

Theatre Out Of Bounds will be producing Bug by Tracy Letts (May 18-20) and Hedwig And The Angry Inch by Stephen Trask & John Cameron Mitchell (July 13-21) at Studio Theatre Long Island. For artist inquiries, submission, and other information, you can e-mail

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Applause! Applause! Review of A New Brain at The Gallery Players by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of A New Brain at The Gallery Players was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 8 (2018) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

A New Brain
Music & Lyrics by William Finn
Book by William Finn & James Lapine
Director & Choreographer: Barrie Gelles
Assistant Choreographer: Adrian Rifat
Director of Production: Scott A. Cally
Music Director: Yi-Hsuan Chi
Production Stage Manager: Dominic Cuskern
Lighting Designer: Scott A. Cally
Costume Designer: Hayley Zimmerman
Set Designer: Jason Pointek
Props Designer: Gabrielle Giacomo
The Gallery Players
199 14th Street
Park Slope, New York 11215
Reviewed 2/11/18

A New Brain is a musical written by William Finn shortly after his having successfully undergone surgery to repair an arteriovenous malformation. It contains too many songs (32 numbers), too many scenes, and a particularly unlikeable, neurotic, sarcastic, disagreeable main character. That character, Gordon Michael Schwinn (Jesse Manocherian), is given a second lease on life and says I feel "so much spring within me" but the truth is he is still the same miserable person he always was. He recognizes this at some point and says, "I'm still the same as I was. I still complain. I hope I'm different." But he isn't. His mother, Mimi Schwinn (Anette Michelle Sanders) threw out his books while cleaning his apartment, and when he happened upon them being sold by a Homeless Lady (Laura Cetti) for $2.00 each, instead of being happy he found his books, which held great sentimental value for him, he refused to pay her saying, "I'm not paying for my own books." This gives you an example of what a cheap creep this guy is so the audience doesn't particularly celebrate when he's given the opportunity to continue writing more songs. 

The cast is extremely talented. Anette Michelle Sanders (Mimi) sings a moving rendition of "The Music Still Plays On" and Laura Cetti (Homeless Lady) is equally impressive singing "Change." Samantha Schiffman is very charismatic as the Waitress who reminds us "Calamari" is not a fish even though it is listed as The Fish of the Day on the menu. The standout performer in the show is Jim Roumeles, who is Mr. Bungee, the director, producer, and star of his own children's television show, for whom Gordon writes mediocre songs such as "Frogs Have So Much Spring." I was particularly taken with Mr. Roumeles' frog costume, dance moves, and all the numbers he sang. The big production numbers, which included "Heart & Music," "Time," and "I Feel So Much Spring" were well-produced but there wasn't a song out of the 32 that, upon first hearing, made me say to myself, "I would sure like to buy the CD to hear that number again." That being said, I am certain there are a few gems in there you might like.

A New Brain was first produced Off-Broadway in 1998 at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. The musical was also presented, after multiple rewrites by Finn and Lapine, as part of the Encores! Off-Center stages concert series at the New York City Center in 2015. The show can now be seen at The Gallery Players through February 18, 2018. Tickets are $25.00 for Adults; $20.00 for Children 12 and under and Senior Citizens. You can purchase them by visiting or by calling OvationTix at 212-352-3101.